December 21 (1977, 1979, 1983, 1986)
Children in Distress at Christmas ~ Casa Loma

12/21/77 — winter solstice. arose an hour before dawn or so, awakened by the strongest winds i have yet experienced out here ~ at times i was worried that the big window would blow out, or the cabin tip over, the oak leaves have been piled in drifts here and there—wow! it's really getting it on! i want to go walk around.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/21/79   rainy morning. greg and susan left for palo alto yesterday. [they] brought a cold with them and it's attempting to settle in.

speaking of cold, a few snow flurries have wandered in, but it's mostly rain. big valley bluff is probably unreachable by four wheel drive now and will probably remain so until sometime in may.


i was trying to sort out priorities: clear meadow? add-on bathroom/hot shower to cabin? foundation cabin? cabinets kitchen sink? write book? start focusing on next year's garden? get the ball rolling on firehouse bid? travel?

travel. i could just take off and explore somewhere.
hot shower. dream lover could be waiting to move in. just add shower.
meadow. i've almost got it where i wanted. but truck is broken.


heavy hail. thunderstorms may invade.

~ later. a few inches of snow. i went to grass valley and got my tape player. good ol' dad got it going again. django reinhardt. saw brother richard. he seemed well [...] .

solar cells. x-country skis. work on truck. bathroom for cabin.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/21/83   Cloudy, and I am crying a little, because it's Christmas time and there are children hurting in innumerable ways and so much of it could be stopped ~ and so much of it can't. Bill Newsom is sponsoring a Christmas party for kids at the Monte Vista (especially underprivileged ones) and I helped Mary H. wrap presents for them yesterday. Chuck Pries will be Santa Claus—it should turn out well. Last night I cried quite a bit in the cabin, thinking about some very unfortunate local children that Mary told me about. Briefly, one family of seven children is being held captive (more or less) in their trailer; he is a tyrannical asshole who beats them; the mother has left to escape further beatings. Another family situation involved a ‘father’ who shot the family cat a dozen or two times with a pistol while the children watched. They also live in a trailer, out at Casa Loma.

For the last week or so I have been nearly totally absorbed in a drive to create a park at Lovers Leap. I've started a cassette component of the journal, and some of my activities are related therein. I composed a petition to the Board of Supervisors and took it to Janet Fonseca to get it typed up. I talked to Fred Yeager to evaluate strategies of approach to the county; he recommended the petition route.

85 signatures so far. Took it to the community club potluck last Thursday. Conversations with Matt Bailey, Rick Sims, of import (Rick didn't sign! doesn't like ‘scenic corridor’ wording); a letter to Mr. Dean Swickard at the BLM office in Folsom; a phone conversation with a Mr. Blauner of the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

12/21/86  Just before dawn, on the winter solstice.


This year I am particularly displeased with Christianity and religious fundamentalism of any sort. I've run out of patience. The real issues which face humanity, and with which our children and their children will have to grapple, are only obscured by religion; belief in religion at this point, particularly the more rigid kinds, only retards our progress, and retards it in a very very terrible way, so that every last little shred of superstition helps to assure that people live in poverty and continue to war against each other, rather than warring against hunger, disease, ignorance, injustice, and ecological disaster…

Just returned from a circumambulation of the Meadow, watched the sunrise, observed the shadows, and decided that the removal of the pines at the north end of the knoll, the young pines, would not significantly affect winter sun. I removed a minor amount of ceanothus, and pruned up the branches of the largest doomed pine for about sixteen feet; climbed up into the tree, chainsaw in hand, and worked my way down. Made a burn pile in the Artemisia patch. Mugwort. I hate it. I remember Susan Blake telling me about a bad acid trip which was triggered by smelling mugwort.

Now back to the meadow with a bud joint to celebrate the solstice and observe the shadows. Actually, because of the stagnant state of things around solstices, the shadows change little over all of December and January.

Now I'm back; high clouds insensibly thickened until the shadows disappeared, but I fed the burn pile and have the knoll clearer than I have ever seen it before.


Now they're talking storm. Hmmm.

The only drawback to the clearing I have been doing is that it exposes the meadow to views of Red Ridge, where houses will sprout in years to come. But to have kept the trees there—in the southwest end of the meadow—would be to lose the delightful surge of sunshine which traverses the Meadow and Knoll at day's end when nights are all too long; sunshine is precious at this time of year; the brush and pines I plan to clear at the north end of the Knoll will similarly exposed the crest of the knoll and the Deified Dogwoods to houses on Red Ridge; at present, only Jon's house is visible, and the vehicles he parks there, but four other lots span the remaining skyline. It worries me.”

[Russell Towle's journal]

December 21, 2003

Sierra Crest panorama with labeled peaks: Mt. Lincoln, Anderson Peak, Tinker Knob, Granite Chief, Lyon Peak
Click to enlarge.

December 21, 2011
Casa Loma Cleanup Day
Solstice Thursday, Dec 21, 2011 9–11 am

Meet at Casa Loma spring with trash bags, work gloves.

Last year TNF conducted "fuel load reduction" clearing at Casa Loma, cutting and chipping up low growth and deadfall in the vicinity of the spring and south, to the railroad tracks. This has been good—it has opened the dense forest. New views into Giant Gap have been revealed; there is much less risk of a devastating forest fire in the area. But a side effect has been that a lot of disgusting human trash is also now revealed that was hidden before. Let's get it out of there. These lovely sunny December days are perfect for such a task. Perhaps you can help?

There are some big items (refrig, bed springs, etc. ); if someone with a truck can make a dump run afterward, that will be super! Anything that we don't have the means to remove on Thursday, we can at least consolidate.

Let's give the Earth, our community, our lovely Casa Loma, a gift of a few hours of our time, and restore some of the dignity befitting a place where crystal clear water flows up for us, always; fresh, cold, sweet, and free... and where the North Fork canyon opens wide with her views and her dancing mists.

The Casa Loma spring is on Casa Loma Rd. about a mile or so beyond (east of) the intersection with Moody Ridge Rd.
A note from Gay:
The first four years I lived on Moody Ridge, in the early '80s (before I had met Russell), I did not yet have a well or any water source on my property. My husband Gary and I kept a 30-gallon drum in the back of our old dodge pickup, and one of us—usually me—drove out and filled it up from the Casa Loma spring about once a week.  It would take about an hour to fill, so I spent a lot of time through those years, with one or both of my toddler boys, hanging out around the spring, tending to that task. It's a special place; it has been steadily providing sweet water for animals and human families in this area for thousands of years. What a blessing it has been to me personally, and it remains for me a symbol of all the Earth's free-flowing abundance. I want to give just a little back, on this solstice day of cyclic awareness.

Casa Loma has both a glorious and a tragic history. It was a Maidu village site for thousands of years, a sunny flat area, open to the canyon on the south, fresh water flowing through the flat from the spring, an abundance of wildlife in the area, a splendid mixed forest, both Kelloggs Black Oaks and Canyon Live Oaks providing acorns, Redbud and Willow providing basket materials...  just an abundance of resources for sustaining human life, and spectacular beauty to nurture human souls. Then... America! and Gold! and the Train!... and the raping and pillage of the indigenous people who had long lived and loved there. In a flash of history, the place became a neglected, abused, backwater, where sometimes
neglected, abused people washed up (as Russell mentions in his 12/21/83 journal entry above).

During the last several decades, while under the aegis of Tahoe National Forest, the area has been open to camping (as are most of TNF lands, with a 14-day limit). But during some periods, especially during economically depressed times, folks have settled there for longer periods, moving in trailers, campers, pets, etc. TNF monitors the area currently and tries to prevent long-term camping and further destructive practices in the area. But the scars of various abuses remain; there is always for me a slightly disturbing aura of painful feelings out there—perhaps I sense a little of the suffering that has been endured there; certainly I feel a sense of loss of the natural grandeur and abundance that once characterized this formerly lovely and loved place. Can we swing into a healing cycle at Casa Loma?

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